Cape Town Travel Guide: 11 Things To Do In Cape Town

Cape Town, colloquially named the Mother City, has recently been voted one of the most beautiful cities in the world and it’s easy to see why. With its combination of towering mountains, pristine beaches and rich culture, it isn’t a destination to be missed.

I have to admit, we booked our trip to Cape Town at the very last minute and as a result arrived with zero plans and expectations. We stayed for an extended period, 8 days, which allowed us to take it slow and fully immerse ourselves in the city. Within a matter of hours we were already falling in love with Cape Town and by the end of our trip we left feeling like locals. Based on our experiences here are our tips, tricks and recommendations to ensure you have the best time in this beautiful destination. 

The Basics:

  • How long should I go for? We enjoyed experiencing Cape Town slowly over the course of 8 days and immersing ourselves fully into the city. However, for a holiday-goer who is exploring other areas of South Africa, I would say you could squeeze the Cape Town highlights into 3 full days.
  • What time of year should I go? If you want to visit in summer then between the months of November and February is ideal. However, shoulder season is also a great time to visit if you’re keen on fewer crowds (March to May & September to November).
  • Where should I stay? It totally depends on the vibe you want. If you want to be away from the city then Clifton & Camps Bay are beautiful areas to stay (but a little more pricey). However, if you want to be walking distance from the hustle and bustle I recommend Sea Point (which is also cheaper).
  • Any hotel recommendations? We stayed at The Glen Boutique Hotel in Sea Point and absolutely loved it. The location is perfect and the rooms are gorgeous but the real highlight is the staff, they are warm, kind and caring and really made our trip super special. Plus, we were able to easily rent a car from them which was extremely convenient.
  • Is it safe? Cape Town has a reputation as a dangerous city and it has the potential to be if you aren’t street smart. Personally, we felt safe the whole time we were there but we took precautions such as using a guide on hikes, never running alone, dressing casually, staying off the streets at night and taking Ubers when necessary (which are very cheap and accessible out there). In short, don’t let the safety element put you off this beautiful destination – if you’re savvy you should be fine. To read more safety tips click here.

11 Things To Do In Cape Town:

Do A Sunrise Hike. 

This is an absolute must! There are two famous hikes for sunrise: Table Mountain & Lions Head, both of which are unmissable. 

  • Lions Head: A short 45 minute climb to a beautiful summit with panoramic views of Cape Town, Table Mountain and the 12 Apostles.
  • Table Mountain: An iconic hike. I recommend the India Vester route if you want a little adventure, or if you want to keep it simple you can take a route through Platteklip Gorge.

I recommend having a guide for both these hikes for safety, especially for the India Vester route. We used Lance from Atlantic Outlook for all our hikes and he is absolutely incredible.

See The Sights. 

Cape Town has a whole host of sights you can see, but here are my top three recommendations:

  • Bo Kaap. One of Cape Towns oldest and most fascinating multicultural districts, known for its colourful houses and cobbled streets.
  • Robben Island. A UNESCO world heritage site prison where Nelson Mandela served most of his 27 year sentence. A museum of major historic importance with tours lead by former inmates.
  • Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. A 1,300 acre garden sloping down from Table Mountain, including a Tree Canopy Walkway with incredible views. A great spot to explore or bring a picnic.

Eat Epic Food. 

Cape Town has an absolutely epic food scene, great coffee and tonnes of vegan friendly spots – you will be spoilt for choice. Check out my Cape Town food guide here.

Explore The Markets. 

Cape Town is home to some incredible markets, here are our top picks:

  • The Old Biscuit Mill. This culinary and local design market is open daily but try visit on a Saturday to experience the famous Neighbourgoods Market.
  • Oranjezicht Market. This city farm market is only open on Wednesdays and weekends; it boasts incredible local produce, artisan food as well as an abundance of vegan options.
  • Mojo Market. This food market is open every day and was a regular haunt of ours, with over 30 food stalls and daily live music acts it is a great place for lunch or dinner.
  • V&A Waterfront Market. This food focused market has over 40 tenants with lots of small local businesses, a great place to try authentic South African delicacies.

Go Sustainable Shopping. 

Cape Town is home to huge quantities of local producers, artisans and small businesses. Of course you can find many of these at the markets listed above, but here are some further recommendations for spots to check out:

  • The Strangers Club. A coffee shop come boutique stocking locally made and sustainable items. I was obsessed with the clean and minimal clothing pieces they have.
  • Dear Rae. A small female founded jewellery business which sources responsibly, producing beautiful pieces many of which have a portion of profits going to charity.
  • Bo-Op. A shop carrying a small but diverse selection of local goods and designers.
  • Merchants On Long. A curated concept store carrying upscale products designed and made in Africa.
  • Love Milo. A homeware shop dedicated to sustainability and championing local craftsmen, a great spot or beautiful and ethically made pieces.

Train Hard. 

Cape Town has a buzzing fitness scene so if you want to move your body there is an abundance of options for you to take advantage of. Our personal favourite workout was Sweat 1000, a high intensity class combining treadmill and floor work.  Other popular spots include Wild Thing (for yoga), Switch (for fitness classes) and Motley Crew (for crossfit).

Try A Day Hike.

Besides the obvious sunrise hikes up Lions Head & Table Mountain, there are a whole range of other hikes in the areas surrounding Cape Town which you can take on. For example:

  • Jonkershoek Nature Reserve. There are a few trails in this reserve concluding the popular Swartboskloof Trail where you can take a dip in a waterfall.
  • Steenbras Nature Reserve. The most famous hike here is Crystal Pools, where again you can take a dip beneath waterfalls as you hike. The dream!
  • Cape Point Nature Reserve. This iconic nature reserve at the southeast corner of the Cape Peninsula is ideal for hikes of all lengths and difficulties.

Watch Sunset. 

Cape Town is home to some pretty damn incredible sunsets so make sure you take the time to enjoy them. I recommend taking drinks and a blanket up onto Signal Hill for a private experience, or if you want company you can take a towel to Clifton beaches where locals gather and there is sometimes live music playing in the evenings.

Experience Adventure. 

Cape Town is a great place to get a little adventurous, why not try:

  • Abseiling off Table Mountain.
  • Paragliding off Lions Head or Signal Hill.
  • Ziplining across Elgin Valley.
  • Kayaking with Dolphins (with Atlantic Outlook)
  • Snorkelling with sea lions in Hout Bay.
  • Surfing in Llandudno Bay.

Go Beach Hopping. 

Cape Town has an abundance of incredible beaches right on its doorstep. But be warned – the ocean is freezing cold so brace yourself when you go for a dip! Here are some of our favourites:

  • The Clifton Beaches. 2nd is the quietest but 4th is great for swimming due to smaller waves.
  • Llandudno. A local beach with hardly any tourists, a great spot for surfing.
  • Muizenberg. Another great breach for surfing, but with slightly warmer water and some beautiful multicolour beach huts.
  • Queens Beach. Located right in the centre of town, this often overlooked beach is a great place to shelter from the wind (which can get quite strong!).
  • Dalebrook Tidal Pool. An ideal spot for a swim away from the crowds.
  • Camps Bay. The most famous beach in Cape Town, but it does get a little busy!

Take A Day Trip. 

Cape Town is perfectly located for day trips, you can easily drive to a whole host of gorgeous nearby spots within an hour or so. Here are my top recommendations:

  • A Cape Point Round Trip. Drive to Boulders Beach first to mingle with the friendly penguins, then head down to Cape Point and admire the rugged coastal landscape; before returning back down the famous Chapmans Peak Drive for incredible views of Hout Bay. Stop in Hout Bay for lunch (try Massimos!), admire the local sea lions (or even snorkel with them) before heading back to Cape Town via a beach for a quick ocean dip!
  • Wine Country. Personally I am not a wine drinker, but many of my pals have thoroughly enjoyed taking trips to local wineries and having picnics/tastings! Popular locations include Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Constantia.
  • Visit Babylonstoren. This was VERY highly recommended. It is one of the oldest Cape Dutch farms known for an incredible garden you can visit and have interactive tours of, as well as restaurants focused on the farm-to-fork seasonal philosophy. 

All in all, Cape Town took my breath away and I can’t recommend it enough! If you’re looking for food recommendations then click here and if you do use any of my recommendations be sure to tag me on Instagram.

Safe travels,

Zanna xx